"Fantastic Fiction" Reading
July 21

James Blaylock, "Thirteen Phantasms"
Steven Popkes,"Winters are Hard"
The Fantastic Fiction series, curated by Ellen Datlow and Gavin J. Grant,
is on the third Wednesday of every month at 7pm at KGB. Come early.

"Thirteen Phantasms": The first short story collection from Philip K. Dick Award-winning author James Blaylock features sixteen thought-provoking forays into the fantastic - from a tale of alien influence on an ordinary neighborhood to the story of one man's self-destructive obsession with a dragon.

"Winters are Hard": In the tradition of most writers, Steven Popkes’ job has been what comes immediately to hand: house restorer to morgue tech to software engineer to white water rafting guide. He's the author of "Caliban Landing" and "Slow Lightning".

He shares his birthday with John Lennon and was married on the ten-year anniversary of his death. Both were coincidences and discovered after the fact.

Excerpt, "Winters are Hard", by Steven Popkes:

I let the silence go on for a bit. "I wasn't sure you would see me."

He shrugged. "Why not? What could you do to me now?"

I ignored that. "You're not a wolf anymore."
"I was never a wolf."
"Yes you were."

He looked at me.

I spread my hands. "Not in shape, of course. But you had left people behind. You didn't start coming back to civilization until I threatened you. Until you had something to lose."

He watched me a moment, then looked back outside. "Autumn's coming."

"It does that."

He grunted and didn't speak.

Finally, I asked: "Why did you do it?"

"Kill Bernard."

Jack held up his hands. "What else could I do? He killed Raksha's pup. Raksha would have killed him if I hadn't killed him first. Then, she would have been destroyed. Better me than her." He turned back to the window.

"You could have gotten off completely," I said. "Did you know that?"

He shrugged.

"Was it Warburg's idea?" I looked around the room, the antiseptic white and beige of the walls. Outside were the guards and the exercise field and the cells. "You can appeal. You can say you were given inadequate counsel. You were given inadequate counsel. That's absolutely true. She should never have taken the deal. You could have been on your way back to Beck-Lewis that afternoon."

"It wasn't Warburg's idea," he said softly. "It was mine. All of this was my fault." He looked up at me for a long time, shook his head and turned away.

And I understood.

I looked out the window. The weather had become clear and the late summer light had changed character and taken on the soft golden glow of approaching autumn. The air looked cool, a sheath of velvet pleasantly covering a cold knife.

Jack looked outside. In one of those rare and perfect telepathic moments between human beings, I knew what he was seeing.

Through one of the many cams that hovered over the pack, or through the eyes of a tourist, or a naturalist or just somebody who wanted to touch her, was Raksha. Now the center of a hungry and ever growing crowd, the elk gone, the grass trampled, playing as best she can with the now almost grown pups, then joining with the rest of the pack, howling against the coming snow.

"Winters," Jack said at last. "Winters are hard."
© Steven Popkes and SciFi.com

Find it: 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10003
Get info: (212) 505-3360 

Get advance notice of other upcoming events, in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six".